Nakajima, Toyota top opening Le Mans practice

Image by JEP/Motorsport Images

Nakajima, Toyota top opening Le Mans practice

Le Mans/WEC

Nakajima, Toyota top opening Le Mans practice

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The No. 8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID topped the opening track session of the  Le Mans 24 Hours. Kazuki Nakajima was the quickest of the No. 8 trio in the running, with a 3m21.656s, which put him at the top of the timing screens after a string of quick laps once the track began to rubber in.

His time was just over three tenths faster than the No. 7 Toyota which slotted in second, after Kamui Kobayashi’s best effort — a 3m21.990s.

As for the two Rebellion R-13s, the full-season WEC No. 1 car managed the best time. Gustavo Menezes’ 3m23.155s put the car on top of the times after around 45 minutes of running, but it wasn’t quite good enough to keep the Toyotas at bay. The No. 3 Rebellion ended up third, ahead of the ByKolles CLM which took fourth with a time 6.7 seconds off the ultimate pace.

In LMP2, Toyota Gazoo Racing “Challenge Driver” Kenta Yamashita set the best time for High Class Racing. The Danish team topped the class after Yamashita’s 3m29.873s. That was just 0.045 quicker tha Giedo van der Garde’s best effort in the Racing Team Nederland ORECA, which finished the session second in class.

JOTA’s No. 38 ORECA completed the top three in the class, and was the fastest Goodyear runner in the field, with a time just a second shy of the fastest from High Class. Duqueine Team’s 07 Gibson was fourth, with the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC ORECA fifth.

In the GTE ranks it was WEC points leader Aston Martin Racing that would get off to the fastest start. The two Vantage AMRs finished up 1-2 at the top of the times, with the No. 97 example of Alex Lynn posting a 3m53.930s. That was enough to put the Briton over a second clear of Nicki Thiim in the sister No. 95 that took second.

Behind, the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs held third and fourth, with Risi Competitzione’s Ferrari fifth. The two Porsche 911 RSR 19s — which prior to FP1 hadn’t ever lapped the Circuit de la Sarthe due to the lack of a test day this year — were at the back of the pack in 7th and eighth, 2.7 and 3.4 seconds off.

Aston Martin Racing also topped GTE Am, with Ross Gunn setting a head-turning 3m55.484s in the No. 98 Vantage, putting the car faster than four of the GTE Pro runners, including the aforementioned Porsches. The HubAuto Racing and MR Racing Ferraris claimed second and third.

The major interruption of the session was a red flag shown with 70 minutes remaining to recover the beached No. 89 Team Project 1 machine.

“Steve Brooks” was behind the wheel and found the gravel trap on the entry to Indianapolis, requiring extraction, providing officials with the perfect reason to implement Slow Zone and then red flag procedures. The Porsche managed to return to the pits under its own steam once it was pulled back onto the track.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: FP2 begins at 2:00 p.m. local time this afternoon.

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